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Wallbangin' : Graffiti and Gangs in L.A. - Susan Phillips

Wallbangin'

Graffiti and Gangs in L.A.

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Graffiti is as ubiquitous as telephone poles in America's cities; it is as old as the earliest civilizations. The most public medium in the country today, graffiti can signal territory, love, or liberation. Ironically, graffiti is understood by only a fraction of those who encounter it. Usually read as a sign of urban decay and as a loss of control over the physical environment, graffiti has become one of the most potent cultural languages of our age. "Wallbangin'" is an unprecedented, in-depth look at this phenomenon as it is embodied in the neighborhoods of one of its epicenters, Los Angeles.
Anthropologist Susan Phillips enters the lives of the African-American and Chicano gang members to write a comprehensive guide to their symbolic and visual expression. She not only decodes the graffiti--explaining how, for instance, gang boundaries are visually delimited and how "memorial" graffiti functions--but she also places it in the context of the changing urban landscapes within the city. Graffiti, she argues, is inextricably linked to political change, to race, and to art, and she demonstrates how those connections are played out in contemporary L.A. "Wallbangin'" is, on this level, an iconography of street imagery. But it is also a very personal narrative about entering the world of L.A. street gangs--a world of pride, enemies, affirmation, and humanity where gang members use graffiti to redefine their social and political position in society.
To many outsiders, graffiti is cryptic, senseless scribbling. But Phillips explains it as an ingenious and creative solution to the disenfranchisement felt by those who produce it. With personal narratives, provocative photography, and contemporary voices, "Wallbangin'" unlocks the mysteries behind street-level ideologies and their visual manifestations.

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
The Story of Graffitip. xviii
Introductionp. 1
Graffiti for Beginnersp. 13
Wallbangin'p. 20
Caging the Graffiti Beastp. 26
The L.A. Graffiti Infrastructurep. 33
Graffiti as Art and Languagep. 39
The Culture of Graffitip. 45
The Politics of Graffitip. 56
Understanding Gangsp. 63
Gangs in Their Natural Habitatp. 66
Multiple Marginality and Street Socializationp. 74
Nested Political Concernsp. 78
Gangs in a Cross-Cultural Contextp. 81
Chicano Gang Graffitip. 95
Ethnographic Lessonsp. 95
Chicano L.A.p. 108
The Family of Gangsp. 113
Representing through Graffitip. 117
A Symbolic System of Boundariesp. 148
Gang Warfarep. 167
RIPs: Memorial Graffitip. 177
The Gangster Touch: Aesthetics and Stylep. 182
Conclusionp. 213
African American Gang Graffitip. 219
The Geertzian Ghettop. 219
Bloods and Crips in the City of Angelsp. 234
The Three R's: Respect, Reputation, and Regulationp. 235
Balancing Practical and Ideological Enmityp. 245
Graffiti as Gang Politickingp. 251
Hoods and Enemies: Levels of G'sta Identityp. 254
The Little-Known World of Gang Alliancep. 263
Power in Numbers: The Neighborhood as a Mystical Symbolp. 271
Historical Links through Time and Namep. 282
An "F" in Penmanshipp. 295
The Los Angeles Uprising: A Case in Pointp. 298
The Gang Manifestop. 303
Hip-hop Graffitip. 309
Bombing L.A.p. 309
Comparing Hip-hop and Gang Graffitip. 312
From Fame to Respectp. 315
Los Angeles's Graffiti Elitep. 327
Local to Globalp. 329
Conclusionp. 335
Conclusionp. 339
Gangs, Hybridity, and Institutionalizationp. 340
Cross-Ethnic Gang Relationshipsp. 343
Paradoxes of the Gang Worldp. 346
Notesp. 355
Referencesp. 361
Indexp. 371
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780226667720
ISBN-10: 0226667723
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 402
Published: 15th July 1999
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 21.5  x 3.18
Weight (kg): 1.0
Edition Number: 2